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Circus Trip 2018: Shelburne Museum

Day 48 & 49, Saturday & Sunday, September 1 & 2, 2018
Shelburne Museum, Shelburne, Vermont

September brought a new state under my belt – Vermont!  I had crossed the border the evening before, and booked a few nights at the Lake Bomoseen KOA for the Labor Day Weekend.  It was a great place to stay, with large wooded campsites, a lake to fish in, a little movie theater, game room and store.

 

The next morning it was time to visit a museum that I was super-excited about – The Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont.  The museum was founded in 1947 by Electra Havemeyer Webb, a wealthy collector of American folk art.  In addition to collecting art pieces, she also undertook to collect 18th and 19th century buildings to house the collection, including houses, barns, a schoolhouse, a lighthouse, a jail, a general store, a covered bridge, and even a 220 foot long steamboat!

I wandered from building to building checking everything out, and thoroughly enjoyed everything I saw.  The steamboat Ticonderoga was incredible; moved here after plying the waters of Lake Champlain.  I would have loved to be a passenger on that ship! The lighthouse was cool, the unusual two lane covered bridge was fun to see, and the round barn was fascinating.

The collection currently contains over 150,000 paintings, folk art, textiles, quilts, furniture and other types of art not commonly seen in museums.  There are entire rooms of duck decoys, farm implements, dioramas, automatons, and other interesting folk art!

The museum is huge, with over 39 buildings total to explore.  The $25 admission is admittedly a bit steep, but they do give you a two day entry for that price, and if you have the time, there would absolutely be enough to keep you busy for two days!

The next day, I had a quiet day at the campground.  I blogged, read, took a walk and even watched a movie.  I also met Bill and Jean, a kind retired couple who were raising their three grandchildren.  They invited me over for dinner and conversation.

Enjoy the photos!

Travel Bucket List

COVID has given me a far amount of time to fantasize about retirement and the things I want to do once I get there. And mind you, I’m not planning to wait until I’m 65! I’ve been coming up with my bucket list… Some of these might not have to wait until I’m retired, but some are harder to do in a standard two week vacation slot, especially if you want to take the time.  Here are some of mine (in no particular order)!

  1. Drive US Highway 20 from coast to coast
  2. Drive Route 66 from start to end
  3. Take a river cruise through the wine country of Europe
  4. Visit the Galapagos Islands and Easter Island
  5. Take an Antarctic cruise
  6. See the Grizzly bears at Katmai National Park
  7. See the Northern lights in Europe (or maybe Alaska)
  8. Visit Machu Picchu in Peru
  9. See the Great Wall of China
  10. Visit Petra in Jordan
  11. See the Churches of Lalibela in Ethiopia
  12. See the Egyptian Pyramids
  13. Visit Cappadocia in Turkey and take a balloon ride
  14. Visit Auschwitz in Poland
  15. Go backpacking
  16. Do a multi-day trip on the White Rim Road in Canyonlands National Park
  17. See the night skies at Chaco Culture National Historic Park
  18. Do an African photo safari
  19. Hike in New Zealand
  20. Camp and snorkel at Dry Tortugas National Park
Treasury petra crop.jpeg

The Treasury Building at Petra (photo from Wikipedia)

What’s on your bucket list?  Have you been fantasizing about travel during COVID-times?

 

 

COVID Diaries: Day 185

It’s now officially been more than half a year of this COVID lockdown…  Half a year…

I took a few days off and did a mini-getaway.  I left last Friday, and was intending to be away all this week. These were the first days off I have had since early March.  Of course, 2020 had other plans, and a giant cloud of smoke blew in from the wildfires and settled everywhere leaving an aftermath of gunky, yellow air.  First I moved my plans away from the fires, but I still wanted to go.  I really needed a break!

So I had the seats taken back out of the car and put the bed back in and hit the road for some Washington Coast time.  I camped, and walked the beaches, and looked for shells and sand dollars.  I ate peanut butter and honey sandwiches, and fish and chips, and fish tacos, and an incredible gyro!

I checked out Willapa Bay, Long Beach, and Cape Disappointment.  I spent some time reading while bundled up on the beach; it gets cold at night along the coast in September!  Plus, all that wildfire smoke blocked out the heat from the sun…  There are two lighthouses there, but the smoke/fog meant I could only see one.

All in all, it was a nice break.  I needed some time to process things, and reset.  I ended up coming home early though, since my Oregon Coast campground was quite close to a fire that hadn’t been contained.  Best to just reschedule that for another time…  Hopefully I’ll be traveling again soon.

 

COVID Diaries: Day 172

September…  2020 is 2/3rds over!  Maybe I’ll survive this year yet!

COVID leaves me a lot of time to think.  Some are ridiculous thoughts like suggesting to my staff that we have a PEEPS diorama contest at work next Easter (this idea was wholeheartedly embraced).  Some are more serious, like putting in the work I need to do in healing.  I started seeing a therapist again, for all the things I bottle up.  We talked early on about how I have experienced an incredible amount of loss in the last few years (to put it mildly)…  I don’t often swear on this blog, but a phrase one of my former employees often said comes to mind…  “What fresh fuckery is this?!?  I think it’s going ok, but that work is damned hard.

I’ve been feeling a bit of writer’s block and it’s making it hard to be more active on this blog.  I’m hoping to get my writing mojo back, but I’m trying to be gentle with myself.

I’m still getting quite a bit of hiking in, with weekly forays into the mountains.  That is good for my soul…

I also keep up on my typical walks and even a swim in the lake!  Two girlfriends and I hired a fitness coach to design a core strength workout routine that we can do at home. I get plenty of cardio in, but I need to do more strength training.  So far it is going well but my quads sure did hurt!

And big news!  I planned a little trip coming up.  The seats are coming back out of the car and the bed is going back in!  It has been since early March that I have traveled, with the exception of one two-night camping trip in the next county down, and do I ever need it!  I’m going to do some days of high desert and then hit the coast for some camping at the beach.  Variety!  I haven’t traveled alone in almost two years, except for one work conference, so I’ll have to get back into my solo groove.

I hope you are all having a good Labor Day Weekend, so far!

Circus Trip 2018: Fallingwater

Day 39 & 40, Thursday & Friday, August 23 & 24, 2018

Rockwood & Mill Run, Pennsylvania

Thursday was a rest day.  It had been a little while since I had a day just spent at the campground, but there was another reason too.  My former employer was being sued, and I was being deposed as a witness in the lawsuit.  I have to admit that it was an odd experience, laying in my car bed with my laptop at the ready (part of the deposition was answering questions about exhibit documents), answering the attorney’s questions under oath.  It is not an unheard of experience in my career, but it was the first time I’ve ever been deposed while hanging out in a campground in Pennsylvania!  I’m just glad I didn’t have to fly home for the deposition!

The rest of the day, I relaxed, took some walks, and wrote.  The Hickory Hollow Campground in Rockwood was mostly set up for RVs, and I had the tent area all to myself!  Unfortunately, the Laurel Highlands area of Pennsylvania was quite cool during my visit, so I didn’t have an opportunity to check out the pool at the campground.

 

Friday I was back at it, and ready to see a highlight of the trip.  The architect Frank Lloyd Wright is fascinating to me.  I have enjoyed visiting the homes he has designed and seeing how he incorporates nature (and styles representing nature) into his designs.  So it is no surprise that I was excited to visit Fallingwater!

Fallingwater is considered to be Wright’s masterpiece.  It was built in 1935 for Liliane Kaufmann and her husband Edgar, owners of the Pittsburgh based Kaufmann’s department store.  The Pittsburgh wealthy had long been building homes in the Laurel Highlands area outside of Pittsburgh, and the Kaufmanns were no exception.  What is unique, however, is the home.  Fallingwater is built directly over a waterfall on Bear Run, and incorporates the waterfall and the stream into the design of the home.

It is incredible!  There are stairs from the living room of the home to access the water below.  There are 4 bedrooms and six bathrooms in the home.  Fallingwater has several sections that are cantilevered, meaning they are only supported at one end, including the living room and the outdoor balconies. The home is constructed with concrete and locally quarried Pottsville sandstone, and a series of cantilevered “trays” make up the home over the waterfall.  Wright called his style organic architecture, where stone floors continue inside and out, corner windows blur the lines between interior and exterior, and glass is used in abundance to bring the outdoors in.

Wright wanted the design to be in harmony with nature, and he did not want to have unnecessary braces or structural support.  Wright also insisted that he design the furniture on most of the homes he designed, and Fallingwater contains the original furniture that came with the home.  The Kaufmanns were permitted to display some of their own knick-knacks and artwork; Wright liked to control every detail of the homes he designed.

Unfortunately, there were some disagreements between Wright and the contractors, and the owners of the house.  The Kaufmanns were concerned about whether Wright had enough experience working with concrete and structural engineers recommended much more structural bracing than Wright wanted; the owners had the additional bracing added in spite of Wright’s protests.  Even with this additional structural support added, a study done several years ago showed that the cantilevers were still in danger, and the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy has had to add additional support in recent years.

 

The tour was very interesting and gave a lot of information about the Kaufmanns and their prized home.  Unfortunately, you can’t take photos inside, and there were far too many people on the tour to sneak any, but I did wander the grounds and I made sure to get the iconic shot of the home and the Bear Run waterfall.  Fallingwater is certainly worth a visit if you have the chance!

 

Westport Weekend: June 2019

June 21 – 23, 2019

Last year I went to the beach at Westport, Washington on the weekend of the summer solstice!  We wanted to ring in the beginning of summer in style!  Now mind you, the coast in Washington in the summer is not guaranteed to be warm, and may be downright freezing, so don’t be expecting any photos of shorts and people lounging in the sand.  We still had a great time!

Lelani and I left work early on Friday and drove down; we were camping and wanted to make sure that we had plenty of time to get set up and get dinner made.  Other friends were joining us too!  She headed down to my work to pick me up and we stopped off for lunch at Kona Kitchen, a great Hawaiian place near my work!  We soon found out that we might have been better off eating on the road…

As usual, traffic in Seattle on a Friday afternoon was terrible, but at least we were entertained by tracking our progress against “the head”…

We camped at one of the Loge Resorts (yes, my spelling is correct); if you haven’t been to one, they have been converting old motels into new hipster-chic facilities.  The one we stayed at had camping (both tent and small RV sites), hotel rooms, and a hostel dormitory.  There was a stage with music on weekends, fire pits, and communal BBQ’s.  It was a fun place to stay, and the tent site was covered; that came in handy because it rained!  Drawbacks were the fact that you were approximately 4 feet from your neighbor in the next tent site over.  My neighbor snored, so the earplugs I always carry when I travel came in handy.

Saturday we checked out the harbor, where we watched people crabbing and fishing, and listened to the seabirds overhead.  We went to the beach too, and enjoyed some time spent searching for sand dollars and walking the beach.  You don’t have to spend too much time searching for sand dollars there; you really just have to wander around picking them up, as the beach is covered with them!  If you go though, make sure to only collect the dead ones, which are already white or a faded tan color; the live ones are a purplish black color.

That afternoon we visited the Gray’s Harbor Lighthouse – you can climb to the top and see the view, and the third-order Fresnel lens.  The lighthouse was completed in March 1898, and stands 107 feet tall with 135 steps to get to the top.  It is worth it though – that view!  Originally, the Gray’s Harbor Lighthouse sat about 400 feet from the waterline, in the last 120 years, the beach has experienced significant accretion, so it is now about 4,000 feet from the water!  I always enjoy seeing lighthouses when I travel and I especially appreciate when I can climb to the top.

We also visited the Westport Winery; they have an extensive tasting list consisting of a few whites, lots of reds and several fruit wines.  They had a sparkling wine that I really liked, and I purchased a couple of bottles to take home.  That evening we made a delicious dinner of steak shish-ka-bobs and corn on the cob, and ate our dinner while watching a guitarist perform on the outdoor stage.  It was fun to see!

Then, before dark, we headed out to the beach to watch the sunset and have a campfire on the beach.  See all those clouds in the photo below?  That made for a pretty much non-existent sunset, but oh well!  It was still pretty, but it was soooo cold and windy that night!  I really had to bundle up!  Are you sure this is summer?

The next morning Lelani and I went for an early morning walk on the beach before we packed up our gear to head home.  We found a little restaurant downtown, where I had hashbrowns, eggs, and fried oysters; it was so delicious!  About noon, we got on the road for another long, trafficky drive home…  What a great weekend though!

 

Circus Trip 2018: The Sights of Cuyahoga Valley

Day 36, Monday, August 20, 2018

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Monday was my second day in Cuyahoga Valley National Park and I intended to make the most of my day!  I hadn’t slept well the night before though, so it took a bit to get going.

Me feeling pensive at the Streetsboro KOA

I started with a short walk to the Everett Covered Bridge, the last remaining covered bridge in Summit County, Ohio.  There used to be over 2,000 covered bridges in the county!  Sadly, though, this one is a reconstruction.  The original Everett Covered Bridge went over Furnace Run, and was based on an 1869 Smith Truss design, but the date of construction is unknown.  In the flood of 1913, the bridge was damaged, but repaired.  In 1975, a spring storm destroyed the original bridge for good.  A local fundraising campaign earned enough money to rebuild the bridge, and this historically accurate reconstruction was completed in 1986.

After checking out the bridge, I found a spot next to Furnace Run to relax for a little bit and watched some trail riders take their horses in the shallow water.  It was so peaceful!

Trail riders at Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Next up was a 3/4 mile (each way) walk to the Hale Farm, where the first buildings were constructed about 1825.  This living history farm is privately owned, and closed on Mondays, so I didn’t get to see it except from the fence line, but it was still a nice walk and cool to check out.  We don’t have anything that old at home in the Pacific Northwest!

I went over to Beaver Marsh to try my hand at wildlife spotting.  Jackpot!  The marsh has a wooden boardwalk going over it, so you can walk out over the water.  It was amazing!  I saw snapping turtles, painted turtles, wood ducks, song birds, a Great Blue Heron and lots of fish in the water.  I spent quite a bit of time in one spot, watching what I thought was a snapping turtle but wasn’t positive.  I wanted to wait to see if he would move – and he finally did!

It was a nice relaxing day, and I enjoyed seeing more of the park, and doing the series of shorter walks.  Even though I spent two days there, I still feel like there is way more to see there; I will certainly have to come back!

That evening I went to the grocery store to replenish my food, and spent another night at the Streetsboro KOA.  It rained hard that night!

Circus Trip 2018: Brandywine Falls

Day 35, Sunday, August 19, 2018

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

My first day in Cuyahoga Valley National Park I did some exploring.  I didn’t know much about Cuyahoga Valley before I went, so I was curious to see what it was all about.  I entered through a side road towards the middle of the park, although I didn’t know that at the time!  Later I learned that Cuyahoga Valley National Park is kind of a long, skinny park going through the valley, with some fingers of land going off to the sides at some points, and a main road traveling through it.

I stopped to check out the Happy Days Camp near The Ledges section of the park, which was built by the CCC during the Great Depression as a youth camp.  These days the building is used as an events center, but it was quiet the day that I was there.  Nearby there is also a community cemetery, which like many old cemeteries, has seen better days.  It was still cool to see it and wander among the old graves; the trail to get to the area from the parking lot even took me under the street through a culvert!

Next I checked out the Boston Store Visitor’s Center and got my passport stamp and some postcards.  I also got some information on hikes – the ranger explained that many of the waterfall hikes would be a bit disappointing in the height of summer, as many of the waterfalls dry up.  I decided to hike to Brandywine Falls, a 65 foot waterfall; the tallest waterfall in the park.  I left my car at the Boston Store Visitor’s Center, and headed down the Towpath Trail.

The Towpath Trail follows the old Ohio and Erie canal, which was built in the 1820s to provide an easier route to move goods to and from the Great Lakes.  I walked along the Towpath Trail for about a mile (best guess), and looked at the canal walls and the remains of the locks that evened out the water levels along the canal.  How cool!  It was a sunny, hot day, and there were a lot of runners and bikers on the trail, but not many walkers like me.  I turned off at the Stanford House, a historic home that was built in 1843 along the canal.  James Stanford originally settled the property in 1806, after coming to the area as a part of a survey group.  When he died in 1827, he willed his property to his oldest son George, who built the home and a number of outbuildings, including the barn which also still stands today.

After passing the home down a few generations of Stanfords and then their neighbors, the home was purchased by the National Park Service in 1978, who operated it as a hostel for several years before converting it to a community meeting space with overnight accommodations.  It is such a pretty property, and the trail to get to Brandywine Falls passes through it. You pass through a meadow, and walk through a forest with bedrock outcroppings, and cross over a little stream a few times on the way to the falls.  There were other people, but it wasn’t too busy except at the falls itself!

There are a number of good views of the falls from a boardwalk that is built into the bedrock, the falls are in between rock outcroppings.  It isn’t very tall based on my west coast waterfall standard, but it is pretty!

From the Stanford House the trail to Brandywine Falls is about 3.6 miles if you do the entire loop, but with starting from the Boston Store I would estimate you add another 2 miles round-trip.  That’s a pretty good hike!  There are some stairs, but the total elevation gain is only about 190 feet, so although the park rates it as moderate to difficult, I rated it as easy.  If you aren’t interested in hiking to the falls, you can park up above them and just take a short walk down the boardwalk to the viewpoint; that isn’t as fun, in my opinion!

After my hike, I headed back to the Boston Store, and got a sandwich and some iced tea to eat in the sunshine, before heading back to my campground for the night.  What a nice day!

 

President’s Day Weekend 2020

It’s late, and time for bed, but I just wanted to check in.  I got home a few hours ago from a wonderful, fun, relaxing, energizing weekend in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.  Jeff and I spent the weekend at Champoeg State Park in a little cabin; it was just what I needed.  Here’s to a short work week!

P.S. And a happy belated birthday to my favorite President, Abraham Lincoln.

 

Circus Trip 2018: What I Learned in a Month

August 2018

By the time I was wandering around the Mary Todd Lincoln House in August of 2018, I had been on the road for a month, camping and living out of my car.  I was proud of myself, to be quite honest, because I had imagined all sorts of things going wrong, and having all sorts of meltdowns while parked along the side of the road, and none of that had happened.  I’m being a little dramatic here, but I had worried before I left that I wouldn’t be cut out for the vagabond lifestyle.  Would I be able to do this?

After a month, I felt like I had worked through things.  I felt comfortable being on my own.  I wasn’t freaked out about not having a reservation each night.  I was doing this!  So, to share the knowledge, here’s a few things I learned as a solo woman, road-tripping through the United States.

My car fitted out

  • When in Montana, get gas before you get down to half a tank.  Once, I had more than a half a tank when I departed for my next destination, but given my route, and the distances between towns with gas stations in Montana, I was down to about 20 miles left by the time I saw a gas station!
  • Very few people tent camp in the Midwest.  I was largely alone in the tent section of the campgrounds I went to, as a general rule.

My tent, Mellow Yellow, in Montana

  • Don’t leave your tennis shoes outside at night.  The torrential downpour when I was staying at Boonesboro State Park in Kentucky soaked my tennis shoes through and through, and got them muddy enough that I had to take out the insoles and wash them out in the campground shower.
  • Don’t forget your quarters when you go to do your laundry…
  • Ask the locals for their recommendations on restaurants, hikes, and other places to see.  Even if you don’t have time, you can always put it on the list for next time!

Minnesota Cider – Tea Time Loon Juice – so delicious!

  • Get to your campground before dark.  For safety purposes, of course, but also because it is hard to cook and find your things by the light of a lantern.
  • Know your car.  AKA, if you have a Honda CR-V, don’t open the back doors from the inside without unlocking the doors with the fob.  It sets off the alarm!  Apologies for the early morning wake ups, my fellow campers!
  • Try the local flavor – even if you are saving money by not eating out that often, be sure to check out some of the local fare.  There are fun breweries, good wines, and unique regional dishes all over!

Louisville Hot Brown and a Mint Julep

  • Some of those gadgets are a real lifesaver!  I traveled with an electric cooler that plugged into my car, converters so I could plug regular plugs into the car’s cigarette lighters, rechargeable battery packs, a rechargeable/solar powered lantern, and bug screens for my windows so I could sleep in the car with the windows down on hot nights!  There is so much innovative gear for camping and road trips!
  • Not everybody will be kind, or friendly, or safe.  But most people will. People will definitely look at you funny if you are camping alone.  Just get used to it; they probably don’t mean any harm, and they might even be jealous.

What would you add to the list?